Loving dioramas

Last week, the second graders carried them carefully from the bus or car, through the main door, to their classes, so proud of their accomplishments. I watched in the main hallway with anticipation and truly as much excitement as their enthusiasm. I remember I was about their age when I built my first diorama.

During the early 1960’s, I was sitting quietly at the dinette table rolling tiny papers and painting them brown. It was a log cabin in a shoe box and the tiny rolls were logs for the fireplace. It took a long time, with little interruption to roll the logs and paint. In fact, the entire room was an effort because I was not good at art. No one in my family was good at art. But I loved making this log cabin. Maybe, because it was so much like setting up a doll house.

In the early 1990’s, I remember helping my own children; one was about actually building a tepee for an Indian habitat.  This was also during the days when the Pocahontas movie made it big in 1995. Actually, we had a Pocahontas birthday party for my daughter where they made their own cardboard paper dolls with markers, felt, glitter, beads, feathers; almost as big as each guest that came. But now, I am truly reminiscing off track.

Dioramas for school projects allow a great deal of creativity, inspiration and the materials available today are overwhelming. You can actually look at YouTube videos on how to make one out of a shoe box or display box. You can use needle nose pliers, any type of glue or masking tape though one student told me her family showed her how to use a hot glue gun, just for her diorama. She was scared but she did it without injury.

Most students used markers, crayons and some used paint to create their backdrop. Some cut up photographs or printed out photos online to add to their design. Some actually purchased craft trees of all types and one used blue marbles to show a water stream. Many used miniature animals and birds to highlight their scene. The birds actually flew, attached with string from the top of the inside of the box, not falling while the students walked down the hallways.

After seeing the children and dioramas arrive at school, I couldn’t wait to take pictures of some of them. I just had to see them again and again. I had to have something to remember. And I had to share with you!

I really do love dioramas. Maybe someone, someday, next year in school perhaps, will ask if I could help them build…..

 

Are leprechauns real?

For me, it was the Lucky Charms cereal created in the 1960s that first talked of magic and leprechauns. Lucky the leprechaun( he actually smoked a pipe) debuted in 1964 with an expensive marketing approach featuring colored ads and comic books. It worked and the cereal still is magically delicious.

Usually bearded, little old men; leprechauns like to get into trouble. If captured by humans, they are often granted three wishes. Others say that they have to tell you where the pot of gold is. When my son was four now 31, I was traveling on a business trip out of the state but arrived home on St Patrick’s day. It was then that my son’s room was totally destroyed trying to catch a leprechaun in a special shoe box designed for that purpose.  The box was intricately built with string that stretched from box to window but no leprechaun. Even after trying to clean his room together; hoping to convince him that we would eventually find the leprechaun. We did end up with a clean room, better than ever, but no luck with catching this creature.

Now as an assistant in kindergarten last week, there is still Lucky the leprechaun. I have not seen him yet. Last week, he began visiting, secretly watching and left two messages for the teacher concerning the children s behavior which had not been the best. Lucky usually leaves treats at this time but the classroom teacher has said that Lucky has not been real happy with students speaking without raising their hand and not cleaning up after recess.

But last week on a Thursday night, Lucky appeared; making a mess of the room, writing on the board and leaving treats at the children’s tables since behavior had improved the day before. I did not see him which many asked if I had. The children told me that I had to look for a little guy with a hat. If he didn’t have a hat, he was not a leprechaun.

This week, the activities with Lucky continue. We spent one day writing individual designs of traps to catch Lucky and the day after, build traps with tooth picks and marshmallows. From what I have heard, they have not caught Lucky or any leprechaun in the past but remnants of leprechaun life were left behind.

On Thursday, 21 traps of marshmallows and tooth picks have been built with fake gold coins in the traps. And on Friday, Lucky left footprints and walked over the traps because he thought it was a playground. He also left special treats.

Now is it really Lucky or the teacher? After packing my bag today in an empty room at dismissal, I thought I heard someone laughing at me. No one was in the room. I turned to walk out and heard the tee hee again. And I checked the corners…..nothing. I practically ran to the parking lot!

One more week until spring break!

Dr. Seuss

Sally and her brother watch the rain pour outdoors while Mother is away. They have nothing to do. They have no massive TV, cell phone, computer, iPad and they can’t wait for The Cat In the Hat to step through the door in 1957, written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss and published on March 12. As an early reader myself when the book was brand new, I was terrified that the kids, the cat, Thing One and Two, would not clean the house in time for when Mother would come home. I also was so amazed at the massive machine the Cat came up with to clean the home.

As kindergarten students are introduced to The Cat in the Hat today, celebrating Dr. Seuss week, I noticed that the machine isn’t as entrancing as it was for us since households probably have all sorts of vacuums, carpet cleaners and electronic robots to take over the house work just like the Cat.

Geisel created the book in response to a debate in the United first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide. Discussions were established about literacy in early childhood and the ineffectiveness of traditional primers such as those featuring Dick and Jane.

It was One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish that I can’t forget because Dr Seuss truly had a gift with the 1960s rhyming book.  You may not remember the story but always the title. Though I think the kindergarten class today liked the adventures of Jay and Kay. As of 2001, over 6 million copies were sold and in 2007, it was named one of the top books for children .

The next day in the class the teacher read Green Eggs and Ham. I forgot to wear green and I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am! I kept whispering throughout the story that he was not going to eat those moldy eggs and ham. The children kept telling me that he was because this wasn’t about bad food, it was about friendship. I was quite amazed at their realization. Green Eggs and Ham was first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide.

It was Wacky Wednesday. That is what we read and the children came in wearing all sorts of wacky clothes and shoes. I had forgotten about dressing up since I am just wacky anyway  so one student showed me how he had turned his shirt around and I did the same with my sweatshirt. He was pleased. Wacky Wednesday was originally published in 1974, one of my own children’s favorites.

Actually, Dr. Seuss’s birthday is today, March 2nd, 1904 and his second wife just passed away in December. Probably one of my favorite quotes “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to you too, Dr. Seuss!

Hula hoops and jump ropes

I sit and watch the kindergarten boys and girls compete to see how long they can keep those plastic circles twirling around their waist. Two can go almost a minute without dropping the hoops. And it takes intense practice outside of P.E class to become accomplished at hula hoop proficiency. I never could hula hoop. I never understood why people wanted to hula hoop. It still ceases to amaze me but I will most certainly cheer on the little ones as they try.

The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr, but children and adults around the world have played with hoops throughout history. And the hula hoops for children are smaller in size.The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts. There has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either “hoopdance” or simply “hooping” to distinguish it from the children’s play form and of course, have become popular in school gyms as a form of fitness exercise.

Another form of fitness exercise in school gyms across America is jump roping.  As a child I enjoyed, jumping on two feet, skip jumping, or even double dutch. The P.E teacher gives his students different options to learn how to jump rope; learning how to jump in place, skip in place and swinging the rope from front to back. He knows exactly the correct verbage to help them succeed. And they practice and practice and practice. It is hard to jump continuously….they are not there yet. Maybe, some can get five jumps in a row! However, if it is only one skip, Mr. K generously praises, guiding them on to keep trying.

There are multiple subsets of skipping/jump rope including: single freestyle, single speed, pairs, three person speed (double dutch), and three person freestyle. There are hundreds of competitive teams all around the world but schools rarely have jump rope teams.

I loved to jump rope, by myself or with friends when I was a child. But with back issues, I am afraid to JUMP. However, with hope, courage and admiration for the children who keep going,  I found a student who was having a rough time. I actually did one skip jump for her and she followed with the same.

For me, a small tinge of back pain and personal development happened. I dropped the rope to the floor while moving on….not getting too carried away with myself.

My work here was done!

 

 

 

It is a wonderful school

“My whole life has been in education,”  I said in conversation with the principal at Elizabeth Ide School a few days ago. And so I begin to reminisce.

This all began over 50 years ago for me; babysitting, reading books, and playing with the neighborhood toddlers at the age of 12. Over 40 years ago, I began teaching high school for ten years and then began teaching junior high at a special education alternative school. I would have stayed, but the money wasn’t the best for putting two children through college.

For 10,000 dollars more, I was offered an administrative position at a for-profit college which I took. My children could take advantage of tuition reimbursement. But that school had a massive, corporate lay off which I was included. Like a car salesman being picked up at another dealership, I was picked up by another school. Finally, the school or should I say company, closed for good. Eventually, it was agreed upon in my family that applying for a teacher assistant or becoming a substitute would be the best choice.Those positions are always in demand.

So I subbed and assisted in one of the more highly-acclaimed and well-paid districts in Naperville. I saw some excellent teaching. I saw some very poor instruction of teachers  lecturing to a classroom; constantly glancing at their cell phone. I heard a teacher call a student a jerk.

I had applied to a variety of schools at the time and I always loved the kindergarten as well as the early, primary grades. The day after I had been hired at Elizabeth Ide School, grades kindergarten through second in Darien, it was God’s gift that one who knew my employment struggle and was a personal job reference revealed that his children went to the school. I had no idea.

“It is a wonderful school,”  he said. I also found out that another friend was employed for over 30 years within the same district…..Center Cass School District 66, though she was at another school that had closed. “The culture is so competent and caring there,  she said. At the time, I did not realize her school was part of the same district.

After assisting almost two years at the school, it truly is a wonderful school! I don’t think I have ever seen a teacher who is not totally focused on expressing learning opportunities for their students. They are constantly on in a positive light. They are engaged in their children’s needs from the time they arrive in the morning until they leave at night. They are brilliant at executing ideas to help students grow. They know exactly how to help build amazing futures for them.

Throughout the entire district, the teachers love their job, but most of all, they love their students with a passion unequal to most school environments that I have observed.  Administration,assistants and support staff also intensely work, side by side, to demonstrate their love and pride for the students.

Currently, the district teachers are fighting for a fair contract. They have been without a contract since August 2018. According to CCEA Inspires, if the Board accepts the teachers proposal, no new taxes will affect the community as well as no program cuts.

Then why????

Why aren’t we assuring that the best educators remain in the district? In the process, if teachers and staff are able to thrive, we are also guaranteeing that the value of our home and village is recognized as one of the most promising as far as education excellence. Our own children will want to raise their families here.

Even if present home owners taxes were increased, the advantages far outweigh the immediate circumstances. As a homeowner of over 30 years in a neighboring Downers Grove school district, I have voted yes to numerous referendums and supported teacher strikes while watching my property value almost double.

Maybe the Board just doesn’t realize how valuable their teachers really are. Maybe all I can do is try to share my experience and help them re-examine the teachers proposals.

Ultimately, you can help too. If you are a member of the community or just interested in supporting the teachers at Center Cass School District 66, the Board of Education is providing an Informational Session next week for parents and friends to learn more.

Please check out the Center Cass website. The teachers need your attention and time is running out.

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They are talking about advent calendars

Because I am generally one of the first they meet in the main hallway by the front door at school, the kindergarten through second grade share it all with me. We talk of movies, weekend sleepovers, weather, new hats, backpacks, who is sick, who they miss, who was not nice on the bus or who they helped. Even are favorite food especially candy is up for debate.

And two have shared the excitement of Mom purchasing an advent calendar that talks about following the nativity story. Though I can’t share everything with them especially about God and religion, I do acknowledge that I believe. One calendar actually produced a gift of Lindt chocolate every day and another a tree of magnetic ornaments.

Today, a huge variety of advent calendars can be found with different themes; some in the form of sports, technology and I found one with elves. Some are extremely large and three-dimensional like dollhouses. Some use Lego and star wars pieces for children.

During the 1960’s, I would receive one in a large brown envelope from family that was an artists masterpiece celebrating the birth of Jesus. Little cardboard or even paper windows opened each day with a prayer or bible verse from the first day in December. There was a double window to be opened on Christmas Eve. We never sneaked a look ahead at the surprise picture or message, neither did my own children when they received their advent calendar gifts in the 1990’s. I remember one that looked like a giant Christmas tree with angels on the outside pointing to the windows located on the tree that looked like different ornaments.

Vermont Christmas Company offers a wonderful selection of advent calendars. One of the worlds largest collection of calendars with over 300 designs. You can also save 30% off even if you are starting a little late into the month.

For adults, there is are daily wine or whiskey calendars with windows or cardboard openings stuffed with cheese for snacking as well.

Last year, only a couple days before Christmas Eve, I received a gift from a student which was an advent calendar. A little late to celebrate the early days of the month so it took me forever to figure out what is was…even my daughter who is 29 asked why certain areas were numbered. Shaped like a dollhouse, it was a bath and body calendar. One day there was a small container of body lotion, body sponge, scented oils, and even chap stick.

 

Zoo lights in Chicago

Traveling to the Zoos in and around Chicago was not something I could do as a child during the holidays. My early experiences of zoo trips were feeding the polar bears at Brookfield during the summer and attending the Children’s/Farm Zoo at Lincoln Park. My Aunt lived in the Old Town area so she would spend time with me at Lincoln Park and then we would have dinner at the Pickel Barrel restaurant.  Every table had pickles and popcorn; sometimes a clown would be there blowing up free balloons.

Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The zoo was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. What I remember most is that Bushman the Gorilla died there and was transferred to the Field Museum; always a scare for me stuffed in a case. I loved the Farm Zoo at Lincoln Park which was filled with play stations of animals. The main barn featured a steer and pigs. It was so popular that horse and beef cattle barns were added. Now The Dairy Barn houses goats and cows, where visitors can learn about the milking process. There was also a Childrens zoo now owned by the Pritzger family. This is a home for North American animals that can let young people get nose to nose with red wolves, black bears, North American river otters and American beavers.

ZooLights, presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ at Lincoln Park Zoo has been Chicago’s holiday tradition for 24 years. The one-of-a-kind experience offers fun, free, family-oriented holiday celebrations that feature luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities…all under the glow of 2.5 million lights!   4:30-9 p.m.
December 2018: 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31*
*(early closure of 8 PM on the 31st)
January 2019: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Brookfield Zoo,also known as the Chicago Zoological Park,[2][3] is a zoo located in the Chicagosuburb of Brookfield, Illinois. It houses around 450 species of animals in an area of 216 acres (87 ha). It opened on July 1, 1934,[4] and quickly gained international recognition for using moats and ditches instead of cages to separate animals from visitors and from other animals. Yes, you could feed the Polar bears which is no longer an option but you can feed the giraffes and you can actually mingle with penguins.  Another strong memory of Brookfield through the decades, was the fountain named after the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. The fountain’s spouting water can reach up to 60 feet high. Another favorite was Ibex mountain where the goats appeared behind the rock but was raised in 2008.

Holiday Lights is presented by ComEd and Meijer currently in their37th year and my children were able to attend some of the first shows. They still go to Brookfield.Actually this is considered the  longest running Lights Festival with over One-Million Twinkling LED Lights. You can see a 41-Foot Talking Tree, a Skating Rink, Carolers, Ice Carvers, and more. The skating rink is new this year.

Location: Zoowide

Date: Saturdays and Sundays, December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23,

Ballerina jewelry boxes: Top of the list in gifts this year

Every girl had one. I wanted one too but slightly different from all my friends. I searched from house to house, asking to see their jewelry boxes, never quite seeing the one. The ballerina had to be just the right size, spin at just the right pace with the perfect music to set off her magic twirl. Inside some jewelry boxes, the fabric was cheap.  I wanted either pink satin or velvet. I had taken ballerina lessons in South Shore throughout kindergarten until third grade. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I was talking about when it came to ballerina jewelry boxes. The hardware had to be gold brass and the paint an off white on the outside; a small lock and key would be preferable. That French provincial look that matched. Most were not personalized as they are today. In the 1960’s, Karla with a K, of all things, wasn’t a popular name.

Many, then, were also made with lead paint. Still, a massive collection of vintage ballerina jewelry boxes are available on Etsy. Some have been refinished and labeled… no lead free oil based paint!

Did you know that today in 2018, after reading an article on the most popular gift for seven year old girls, the ballerina jewelry box was in the top five? Children are still inspired by the ballet, taking early lessons to learn elegance and decorum. And dressing in the elaborate ballerina tutu which makes them a graceful star.

In the 1990’s, I don’t recall my daughter ever wanting one. Instead, she had a beautiful water globe with a ballerina in the center. You could turn a small key on the bottom and the ballerina would gracefully spin to music while shaking the dancing glitter.Her Godmother had given her the gift. She still has the globe that mesmerizes her every time she admires it at 29 years of age. And she shared this with her Godmother on a surprise visit that it was still one of her favorites gifts. They had not seen each other in several years. Unexpectedly, my daughter had shared this not knowing that in only a few months after,her godmother would pass away.

Today, to purchase some of the best in new ballerina jewelry boxes,  the Pottery barn kids offer some unique items. Sears online has several choices in musical jewelry boxes and many are currently marked down. They offer safe places to store your sparkling treasures.

After searching online to research the different types of ballerina jewelry boxes, I found one from the 1980s at Etsy. There are three divided areas on top and one full drawer on the bottom. It is pink satin inside with velvet trim and it plays one of my favorite songs, You light up my life.

Oh boy…guess what is going on my Christmas list. Maybe I will just break down and buy for myself. It’s already favored by five people! Yes, these musical boxes must be popular after all.

Sno-caps, Raisinets or Junior Mints?

A second grader approached me one day and was telling me about her trip to the movie theater. She wasn’t a big popcorn eater but how she loved Sno-caps candy. When I was exactly her age decades ago, it was Sno-caps for me instead of popcorn. A lot cheaper too! Prices have jumped over 600 percent to buy candy at the movies; a dollar, however, would do it during my time. My best friend always chose Raisinets. If all else failed, Junior Mints was the final choice.

We also talked about how we never had that candy at any other time but at the movies. These were the movie candy choices, I suppose.

So, of course, I went to the movies with my adult daughter a week later and had to try out Sno-caps. Unfortunately, the sprinkles got between my teeth and I did not experience the same nonpareil satisfaction as before. My teeth are certainly not the same either. Though, I did save the box and shared with the second grader that I truly enjoyed my trip to the movies.

Sno -Caps have been around a long time. The candy was introduced in the late 1920s by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Ward Foods acquired Blumenthal in 1969. Terson Company bought the product and Nestle finally acquired the candy in 1984. Sno-caps are bite sized Nestles chocolate, covered with white sprinkles.

Chocolate-covered raisins are still popular and Raisinets are currently made by Nestlé.  They come in all sorts of packages, sold around the world and come in special movie theater boxes today. The raisins are from California with fruit antioxidants and thirty percent less fat. An important choice for splurging at the movies!

Junior Mints are a candy brand consisting of small rounds of mint filling inside a dark chocolate coating. The product is currently produced by Tootsie Roll Industries.  The product was launched in 1949 and named after a series of articles that was produced into a Broadway play, Junior Miss. However, the play had closed six years before the candy was introduced. In 1945, the play was adapted to a film and radio show. Over 15 million Junior Mints are produced daily in large theater boxes.

I am going to the movies today and I have a taste for popcorn! Today, cinemas have moved beyond the original popcorn, candy choices and sell burgers, quesadillas, and pizzas. Even beer and wine is an option.  Some classic films are paired with specific fine wines…..hmmm.

Maybe, I will just try some Junior Mints.

Just Thankful

Thanksgiving’s historical beginnings belong to the Pilgrims and the Winnebago Indians who celebrated the harvest festival. For us, it is a day of remembrance that we spend with family featuring fine foods such as turkey, giblets, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and a variety of pies, pumpkin usually being the first on everyone’s list. Good food, though a part of the Thanksgiving history, is always a priority and excuse for any holiday here in the US.

However, another added tribute to Thanksgiving is football in America as the male counterparts of the family gather in front of the set, stomachs ready for the game ahead though in some households many try to make that annual attempt to toss their own ball in the back as the women wait to see who will be the first injured player. But that is ok, it is tradition.

As families prepare for the festivities gathering the necessary ingredients for the grand table, many do find some quiet time to evaluate the year and decide what they are truly thankful for during the holiday season. And the list can vary from the joy of being a grandparent to even finding a close parking space on Black Friday. But, thankfully, Thanksgiving encourages the lists of thanks for the simple pleasures, wonderful people, and maybe just another year of life to spend with those we love. Gratitude is taught and hopefully remembered throughout our days beyond the yearly celebration where we can truly reflect on how lucky we are in our own light.

So here it is again, my list of never ending thankful moments and surprisingly, with the exception of new personal introductions of family and friends, it always focuses on the same.

  • I am thankful for time and not wasting it.
  • I am thankful for great books, hobbies and the word bored that is not a part of my vocabulary
  • I am thankful for logs in my fireplace and the fire starters that really work.
  • I am thankful that I refuse to give up on my dreams.
  • I am thankful that I will never be too old.
  • I am thankful that my daughter bakes better pastries than me.
  • I am thankful that Len does all the cooking
  • But I am thankful for my son who gave me a instant pot to try to cook once again and I love it
  • I am thankful for all my classroom children that teach me how to be a child again
  • I am thankful for Gladys Knight and the Pips my favorite recording of “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” because it honors so many in my life.
  • I am thankful for our service men and women who courageously fight today and sacrifice their own desires
  • I am thankful for my pet, who is always waiting for me
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to choose my words carefully; my pet always knows what I mean.
  • I am thankful that my mistakes have guided others.
  • I am thankful for all of you who so faithfully read my articles and for those out there that always bounce back when life seems to curve so dangerously without warning and inspire others to charge ahead with positive anticipation and grace.

And, finally, as my personal collection of years keep passing me by, I am truly grateful that my gratitude list richly grows for without the essence of being grateful for so much, nothing else can make a difference.

Originally published in Grand Magazine http://www.grandmagazine.com/2012/11/what-to-be-thankful-for-this-thanksgiving/